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A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support – COVID-19


Last updated: 30 September 2021 

This directory has been designed to help you keep track of new changes being introduced to the benefits system as a result of the coronavirus.

We hope that this summary of the latest updates provides a useful source of reference. For further guidance relating to COVID-19, visit this page.

 

Accessible information

If you have accessibility needs or care for someone who has, you can get support with claiming benefits and pensions.

There are adjustments that can be made to help anyone experiencing difficulty using the phone, reading letters or going online to name just a few examples. Please see this guidance for further information.


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Assessments

DurIng March 2020, all face-to-face assessments were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However certain face-to-face disability assessments resumed from May 2021. Face-to-face assessments are now taking place alongside existing paper-based assessments, and telephone assessments will continue where suitable. For the latest updates, you can visit the Gov.uk website

To ensure that assessment centres are meeting COVID-19 safety measures, on 29 March 2021, new detailed guidance was published for claimants and assessment providers.

NHS Continuing Healthcare or NHS-funded nursing care

As of 1 September 2020, it is no longer possible for the NHS to delay assessments for NHS Continuing Healthcare or NHS-funded nursing care due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. If you had a booked appointment for an assessment that was delayed, you should now be able to get a date. 

What happened to the Care Act easements, created under the Coronavirus Act 2020?

From 16 July 2021 the Care Act easements, created under the Coronavirus Act 2020, expired. This means that in local authorities where easements were in place, all assessments and reviews must now be followed up. Those who did not undergo a financial assessment during the period easements were in force, may find they are charged retrospectively for any care and support received during this period.


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Attendance Allowance

You may be able to apply for Attendance Allowance if you’re eligible for the benefit. For information about the rates and criteria to apply, see our Attendance Allowance page. Once you have applied, the Department of Work and Pensions should get in touch with you directly to advise on how to proceed with having an assessment safely, if necessary, during this period.

If your circumstances have changed (for example your condition has deteriorated and you believe you're entitled to a higher amount), you can also request a review by phone or by post. see this Attendance Allowance Gov.uk page for contact details.

We generally recommend that you take further advice before requesting a review as it can result in the level of your award remaining the same, increasing or in some cases it could be reduced. Contact your local advice agency to discuss your situation. You can also contact our Helpline if you have any specific queries by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you live in Northern Ireland.

Check the end date of your award by looking at your award letter. The DWP may have written to you to extend the end date by six months. If you have not received notice of an extension and the award end date is approaching, telephone the DWP to ask whether it has been extended. If not, you will need to make a further application.


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Benefits review?

Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, it's possible that your household income might have decreased or changed, and now may be a good time to have a benefits check. For example, you may have become entitled to financial assistance through welfare benefits.

You could contact our Helpline to request a review at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or perhaps try out the online benefits calculator provided by the financial assistance charity, Turn2Us: carersuk.org/help-and-advice/financial-support/help-with-benefits/turn2us-benefits-calculator or entitledto.


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Carer's Allowance

Some of the rules for Carer's Allowance were eased temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic. The adjustments were due to finish at the end of May, and were extended until the end of August 2021.

Note that you can only claim the Carer's Allowance benefit if someone you’re looking after is already receiving a qualifying disability benefit. Find out more on our main page.

COVID-19 related changes (until end of August 2021)

The rules were temporarily changed in March 2020 so that if you or the person you care for were affected by COVID-19 and needed to self-isolate and have a break from caring, you could still claim Carer's Allowance.

The government confirmed that providing ‘emotional support’ remotely online or by phone would also count towards the 35 hours needed to claim the benefit.

These measures ended on 31 August 2021.

In Scotland
In addition to Carer's Allowance, if you live in Scotland and are receiving Carer's Allowance on particular dates (12 April and 11 October 2021), you may be entitled to an additional payment called the 'Carer’s Allowance Supplement’. You can read more about this here

The Scottish Government has also announced that many carers will receive a double payment of the Carer's Allowance Supplement this year (2021) in recognition of the challenges carers are facing. Read more here: www.gov.scot/news/carers-allowance-supplement-bill-passed/


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Child Benefit

On 31 May 2021, new rules were introduced to allow Child Benefit to continue in payment after a young person leaves education early because of exam cancellations due to coronavirus.


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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme/ Job Support Scheme

Has the Coronavirus Job Retention/Furlough Scheme ended?

Yes, the scheme ended on the 30 September 2021.

The government introduced a temporary scheme, referred to as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to support UK employers whose operations have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. You can read more about this here

A similar scheme was also set up to support those who are self-employed. This was known as the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Extra financial support 

The tax charities Tax Help for Older People and TaxAid are now offering targeted support for those affected by the impact of Covid-19. Their helpline is 0345 120 3779 and is open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety. As part of this duty they will need to follow the government guidance on working safely during coronavirus, which is gives information specific to different sectors. 

The government website links you to Citizens Advice webpage coronavirus - if you are worried about working .There is also further information on the ACAS website here. The ACAS helpline number is 0300 123 1100.

You can also contact our Helpline if you have any specific queries by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you live in Northern Ireland.

Extra financial support for businesses

If your business has been affected by the coronavirus restrictions, you may be eligible for loans, tax relief and cash grants, whether it is open or closed. See this page for more information.


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Council Tax/rate relief

Help with your Council Tax bill

If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, you could get in touch with your local authority or trust (in Northern Ireland) to see if they can allow you to defer payments or to see if they can offer any form of discount or support to help.

See our main Help with Council Tax/ rate relief page to find out about your rights and for more ideas for saving money.

In light of COVID-19, the government has pledged support for renters through increases in Housing Benefit and Universal Credit. 

The government has provided all councils with funding to help those residents who find themselves in most financial need during the COVID-19 situation.In England, the government provided support through the Council Tax COVID-19 hardship fund 2020-21 with continuing COVID-19 funding for local authorities in 2021-22 including a local council tax support grant. Check your local authority website for details of help available in your area.

Rate relief in Northern Ireland and COVID-19

There are various rate support schemes in place to offer support in Northern Ireland. You can find more information here.


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Debt/money worries and financial support

(UK wide) If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender. If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score. See our Help with debt page for other useful sources of support.

TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People have a support service to help those who are facing tax problems and struggling to claim the support they are entitled to. Their helpline is available Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.

In England, people on low incomes who need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home in areas with a high incidence of COVID-19 could benefit from a one-off payment. For more details, see gov.uk/test-and-trace-support-payment.

If you think you may need financial support from your local authority in England, you may also be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund. Most of this funding will be used to provide more Council Tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures.

In Wales, people on low incomes who have coronavirus or have been told to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service are now able to apply for a £750 payment. The Self-Isolation Support Payment scheme has been extended until March 2022. It is open to applications from people with a personal income of up to £500 per week and those on Basic Statutory Sick Pay or New Style Employment and Support Allowance who have been asked to self-isolate by the Test, Trace, Protect service, the NHS Covid-19 App or by their child’s education setting. Read more.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities has put in place a non-repayable grant payment programme to assist those in financial difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate. Read more on the nidirect.gov.uk page. 

In Scotland, if you have had the coronavirus or have been told to self-isolate, you may be able to apply for a £500 payment.

Families and individuals in Scotland facing emergency situations can apply for a Crisis Grant from their local authority through the Scottish Welfare Fund. To find out more about the Scottish Welfare Fund and how you might apply, click here

A new holiday voucher scheme has also been introduced to help families and unpaid carers in Scotland, on a low income, have a break from October 2021 to December 2022. This is part of the government's recovery programme. Read more and find out how to apply.  

Support for children

In addition to the Scottish Child Payment coming into effect this year, there will be financial support available for the families on the lowest incomes in the form of 'bridging payments' ahead of Christmas (2021). Read more here: https://www.gov.scot/news/boost-for-family-budgets-before-christmas/. Also find out if you can apply for Scottish Child Payment.

From 7 December 2020, the £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant was also extended to include parents on low incomes whose children (aged under 16) are asked to self-isolate and who have to take time off work as a result. It will also be available to those who would be eligible for Universal Credit even if they have not claimed it. Find out more here. Further information about support available to low-income families can be found here.

If you are contacted by 'Test and Protect' in Scotland and are on a low income, you may be eligible for a self-isolation grant. Find out more here and for details of other forms of financial assistance, see this page.


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Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

For details about this benefit and its rates, see our Disability Living Allowance page

You can check the end date of your award by looking at your award letter. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may have written to you to extend the end date by six months. If you have not received a letter and the award end date is approaching, telephone the DWP to ask whether the award has been extended. If not, you will need to make a further application.

Please note that if your circumstances have changed (for example, your child's condition has deteriorated and you believe they're entitled to a higher amount), you can still request a review by phone or by post.

We generally recommend that you take further advice before requesting a review as a review can result in the award increasing or in some cases, it may remain the same or be reduced.

In April 2021, DLA guidance was updated to include long covid syndrome stating, 'It is those children who have significant functional impairment at 12 weeks and do not seem to be recovering, who may have entitlement to DLA Child.' (page 742)

Contact your local advice agency to discuss your situation. You can also contact our Helpline if you have any specific queries by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you live in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, a new benefit is replacing DLA for children called 'Child Disability Payment'. Those who are already receiving Disability Living Allowance for children in Scotland don't need to make a new application as their award will be automatically transferred. For those who are not, the Child Disability Payment applications open across Scotland from 22 November 2021. Read more at: mygov.scot/child-disability-payment


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Employment and Support Allowance (New Style)

This is a type of benefit that you may be able to apply for if you are ill or have a disability that affects your ability to work. To find out if you are eligible, visit this Gov.uk page. More detailed guidance including where you have been affected by coronavirus can be found here.

New style Employment and Support Allowance is a fortnightly payment and for eligible claimants who are directly affected by COVID-19, it is payable from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day.

In general, phone interviews are being carried out in place of face-to-face interviews and assessments. However from May some face-to-face assessments resumed and these are taking place alongside existing paper-based and telephone assessments for Work Capability Assessments for ESA, initially only for those who cannot access other channels.

Detailed guidance on gov.uk for claimants and assessment providers has been issued to help support face-to-face assessments being carried out safely again. See also Covid Clinical Telephone Assessment guidance for work capability assessments.

If you are eligible and affected by COVID-19, you can also be paid from day one rather than day eight of sickness.

In June 2021, the DWP announced that the Claimant Commitments and Action Plans would be reintroduced for all ESA Claimants. They have said that work coaches continue to work with claimants to ensure that claimant commitments and action plans are reasonable and tailored for claimants’ circumstances, “allowing them to continue to adhere to COVID-19 public health advice, whilst also considering how they can engage with the labour market or move closer to work”.

For all new claims to New Style ESA, processed from 26 April 2021, claimants will be required to have an appointment with a work coach and agree a claimant commitment before they can receive New Style ESA.

For New Style ESA claims processed prior to 26 April 2021, the requirement for an agreed claimant commitment and for ESA legacy claimants an action plan, has been introduced gradually from 28 June 2021. Claimants will be contacted to arrange an appointment with a work coach and agree a Claimant Commitment or Action Plan.


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End of life planning/bereavement

We have brought together some guidance to help you get through difficult times and prepare for the loss of someone close to you, especially during this very difficult period when many services are not operating as before. 

Understanding that there is much to take on board, both emotionally and on a practical level, we have tried to break down our guidance by suggesting some steps to follow. 

What is advance care planning? Read our guidance.

I need to find out more about how to deal with grief. See our guidance.

Practical matters – what needs to be done following a death? Read our guidance.

Registering the death – what happens now? Read our guidance.

What needs to be considered when arranging a funeral? See our guidance.

On the Gov.uk website, there is further information about support for the bereaved and what to do when someone dies during the Covid pandemic.


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Hospitals - preparing and leaving

You may have been thrown into the role of caring for someone and feel underprepared. Or perhaps the needs of someone you have cared for over time, have suddenly changed. Uncertainty about what to do and how to cope can be a big source of anxiety.

Our planning for emergencies page offers tips on how to relieve these worries by preparing for the unexpected, such as a sudden visit to hospital. Once there, the ward staff should help patients communicate with those they are close to by phone or video, where possible. Providing permission and related information as part of a documented plan in advance may be useful. For example, you could indicate who you would like to be kept informed as key contacts.

Our guidance can also help you prepare for someone you care for coming out of hospital. Knowing what questions to ask and what to expect can help you both cope with any change of circumstances. 

If you are able to visit someone in hospital, remember that use of face coverings is mandatory. Check the hospital's website in advance to ensure that you follow their guidance and protocols. Also see the government's guidance on hospital discharge

Hospital discharge to care homes

All patients who are discharged from hospital will be tested, as a matter of course, before going into care homes. 


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Housing support

Housing Benefit was increased from 6 April 2020. From April, an extra £1 billion over one year across the UK was allocated to help private renters, increasing Local Housing Allowance rates (to pay for at least 30% of average rents in all areas of the UK). See the latest government guidance.

You may be entitled to extra housing benefit if you are earning less because of coronavirus. Let your local council know as soon as possible or contact your local health and social care trust in Northern Ireland.

If you receive Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and are finding it difficult to pay your rent you can apply to your council for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Renting

If you are a tenant, you are still liable for your rent and should pay this as usual. If you are struggling to pay this, support is available and new measures mean that any landlord must provide reasonable notice if they wish to end the tenancy. For more details see this Gov.uk page.

Also see ‘Council Tax/ Rate Relief’ in this directory.

Support for Mortgage Interest loan

If you are a homeowner in receipt of Pension Credit (or other qualifying benefits) with an outstanding mortgage or a loan taken out for repairs and home improvements, you may qualify for a repayable Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan. You should check whether this is right for you. More information is available on the Citizens Advice website here.


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Other benefits (incl. legacy benefits)

Legacy benefits (being gradually replaced by Universal Credit) include Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. These should continue to be paid during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Interviews for these benefits will not be carried out at job centres face-to-face; instead they are currently being conducted over the phone. However, face-to-face assessments for Work Capability Assessments for claims for the additional health amount of Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance and for PIP resumed from May across England.

Housing Benefit was increased in the previous tax year (2020-21) but LHA rates have been frozen at the same level in cash terms for 2021/22.

In addition, Working Tax Credit was increased by £1,040 (and this has been extended for a further six months until September 2021). For the latest guidance on tax credits, see: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/working-tax-credit and https://www.litrg.org.uk/tax-guides/coronavirus-guidance/tax-credits-and-coronavirus

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance. See Employment and Support Allowance (new style) above for more information about the benefit.


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Overpayments

The government took the decision to stop recovering overpayments for three months during the COVID-19 pandemic from 4 April 2020. This included benefit overpayments, tax credit debts and social fund loans.

However repayments that were temporarily stopped because of the coronavirus are starting again. If money is usually taken from your benefits or pay, or you previously repaid them by Direct Debit, you do not need to do anything. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) (or DfC in Northern Ireland) will write to you when repayments restart or they may add a journal entry if you get Universal Credit.

The DWP updated the Benefit overpayment recovery guide on 12 May 2021 following a judicial review. The guidance clarifies when and who may be eligible to request recoverable hardship payment(s) to be waived at the department’s discretion.

If you are having difficulty with the repayments and are struggling to meet essential living costs, seek further advice. The DWP say that those who are experiencing 'real financial hardship' can request deferral of repayments by contacting the Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647.


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Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

For details about the benefit and rates, see our Personal Independence Payment page.

You can check the end date of your award by looking at your award letter. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may have written to you to extend the end date by six months. If not, and the end date is approaching, call the DWP to ask whether it has been extended. If not, you will need to make a further application.

The time limit for the return of your PIP2 form was initially extended to three months in March 2020 but that is no longer the case, and the month time limit applies. You should keep within the time limit; however, in some cases it is possible to ask for the return date to be extended. If you need extra time, ask for an extension as soon as possible.

In March 2020, all face-to-face assessments were suspended. However face-to-face disability assessments for Personal Independence payments resumed under careful conditions from May 2021. Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside paper-based assessments. Telephone assessments will also continue to take place where suitable. For the latest updates you can visit the Gov.uk website.

The assessment centres and staff should be fully compliant with COVID-19 safety measures. More guidance for claimants can be found on the government website here. Detailed guidance for assessment providers is available here. This will be kept under review so check the current guidance.


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Self-employment

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

The scheme, which offered additional financial support to certain self-employed people, ended on 30 September 2021. 

The tax charities Tax Help for Older People and TaxAid have launched a new coronavirus support service to help if you are struggling with tax problems. Their helpline is available Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.

Find out whether you are eligible for government finanical aid if your business has suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Other sources of support

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to government guidance. See the 'Employment and Support Allowance' entry in this index to find out more.

You may be able to apply for the benefit, Universal Credit as a self-employed person. See the 'Universal Credit' entry further on in the A-Z.

For support and guidance on getting financial assistance or to arrange a benefits check, contact our helpline by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can be paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day of sickness absence, rather than the fourth day, if:

  • you have the coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you have been asked 'to shield' because of an underlying health condition or
  • you have to self-isolate (either because you have symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has).

Note that you can also apply for SSP if you cannot work and have to self-isolate because you live in the same household as someone who has displayed coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms.

You can read more about this here. See our Working and caring section for more guidance if you are balancing work with caring.


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Universal Credit

Find out more about the benefit and its rates on our Universal Credit page.

If you’re claiming this for the first time, you will have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, so don’t delay making a claim. You can make a claim for an advance payment while you are waiting for your Universal Credit payment. 

The standard rate in Universal Credit and Tax Credits was increased by £20 a week from 6 April 2020 until the end of September 2021, with the additional money stopping in any assessment period that falls after 6 October 2021. The standard allowances used to calculate your award are now as follows (per month):

Single aged under 25: £257.33

Single aged 25 or over: £324.84

Couple both aged under 25: £403.93

Couple one or both aged 25 or over: £509.91

If you're currently claiming Universal Credit as a self-employed person, or intend to make a new claim (as someone who is self-employed), the rules around the Minimum Income Floor were temporarily removed until August 2021.Let your work coach know if your business is still affected by the coronavirus, as there may be discretionary grounds for them to remove or reduce your Minimum Income Floor. 

Note: Check whether the Minimum Income Floor should be applied. If you are not in gainful self-employment and are not in the “all work-related requirements group” (for example you are a carer with ‘regular and substantial caring responsibilities’ for a ‘severely disabled person’), the DWP should not apply the Minimum Income Floor but instead, should use how much you actually earned to work out your Universal Credit payments. 

If you get money from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, you will need to make a note on your journal as it will count as income. Money from your employer if you were furloughed also counts as income when calculating Universal Credit entitlement.

If you are eligible, we recommend claiming online as it is very difficult to get through to an adviser on the phone line owing to the large numbers making claims at this time. Find out more about the process here. Anyone who is unable to get online or needs additional help, can ring the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644, or the Citizens Advice Help to Claim Service on 0800 144 8 444.

You do not need to attend an appointment at a Jobcentre Plus and any interviews can be carried out over the phone. However face-to-face assessments will be available alongside existing paper-based and telephone assessments initially for Universal Credit claimants who cannot use other channels.

For more information, see this Gov.uk page.


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